You, and a billion other Facebook users, only have a few days left to take part in an important vote about how your personal data is used by Facebook.
After 12:00pm PST on Monday December 10th, 2012, it will be too late to cast your vote in the "Facebook Site Governance Vote".
Facebook users are being asked to vote as to whether Facebook should stick with its current SRR (Statement of Rights and Responsibilities) and Data Use Policy, or roll-out a new version proposed by Facebook's management.
If you vote for Facebook's proposed new versions of these documents, then this is what you're agreeing to:
- Facebook will no longer ask users to vote on governance changes. Instead, users will be allowed to submit questions to Facebook's chief privacy officer, and attend webcast discussions etc. In short, you've lost your chance to vote forever.
- The proposed new data use policy would allow Facebook to use data from affiliates and advertising partners "to tell us information about you" and "improve the quality of ads."
In all likelihood, this is part of Facebook's plan to build up a more precise picture of its many users, helping it target advertising more effectively, and using data not only from its own site but those it has recently acquired such as Instagram.
- New filtering tools for managing your incoming messages on Facebook.
- Changes to the way Facebook refers to some of its products.
- Facebook to be clearer about who can see what on users' timelines and the news feed.
- Facebook to provide tips on how to manage your timeline.
Some of these proposals from Facebook are definitely not controversial, and might even be a good thing, but the first two changes (losing the right to vote, and Facebook sharing data with its affiliates and partners) definitely are ringing alarm bells for some.
And that's why so far many more people have voted against Facebook's proposed changes, and to keep the existing SRR and Data Use Policy instead.
Although it looks like one side has already won.. it hasn't.
Facebook only considers the vote to be binding if a staggering 30% of its active users choose to vote.
At the time of writing, a mere 178,646 people have voted against Facebook's proposed changes. Assuming Facebook has a billion users, that's less than 0.018%.
So even though the overwhelming majority of those people who have voted, have voted against Facebook's proposal.. it isn't worth diddly-squat unless the magic 30% threshold is reached.
(By the way, this isn't even considering that Facebook itself acknowledges it has some 83 million fake accounts on its social network - one wonders if they are considered "active" or not).
Facebook is sending out emails at the moment, reminding users of their ability to vote. There's an example of such an email pictured below (click on it for a larger version).
Facebook previously sent out an email inviting comments, just hours before the US Thanksgiving holiday - as we reported at the time, some folks incorrectly believed the email was fake.
Don't be too despondent if you feel that your side might not win the vote, you still have time to be have your voice heard and cast your vote.
Like Facebook says - it's your choice, your vote.
If you are on Facebook and want to keep yourself informed about the latest news from the world of internet security and privacy, join the Sophos Facebook page where more than 200,000 people regularly discuss these issues and best practice.Follow @gcluley